Modern Panamá City is a bustling metropolis of almost one million people. More than one-third of the country’s population live in its 262-square-mile metro area that sprawls almost 16 miles/10 kilometers along the Pacific coast between the Panama Canal on the west and the ruins of Panamá la Vieja on the east. Panamá Bay curves to the south, between colonial Casco Antiguo and Punta Paitilla’s glittering skyscrapers. The 19,341-acre/47,772-hectare Soberanía National Park borders it to the north. The downtown area surrounds Via España’s fine shopping and the nearby banking district. Lovely Avenue Balboa, lined with graceful palms, skirts west along the coast from Punta Paitilla to the outskirts of Casco Antiguo.
Proud residents like to say their capital is three cities in one – Panamá la Vieja, Casco Antiguo and the modern downtown and suburban neighborhoods of the city that has grown between them. Up until about 1910, the city was still a small town that hadn’t spread beyond the walls of present day Casco Antiguo. It wasn’t until the US canal contruction began that it started spreading eastward, as new residential neighborhoods and shopping areas were built to accommodate a growing population. World War II fueled an economic boom that resulted in an explosion of new construction and by 1970, the city had become an international trade and banking center. Panamá City today is as cosmopolitan as any world capital. Proximity to the Panama Canal and Colón Free Zone make it one of the world’s best cities for shopping, with very attractive prices.
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